Comprehensive Study on Cybercrime

In its resolution 65/230, the General Assembly requested the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to establish, in line with paragraph 42 of the Salvador Declaration on Comprehensive Strategies for Global Challenges: Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Systems and Their Development in a Changing World, an open-ended intergovernmental expert group, to conduct a comprehensive study of the problem of cybercrime and responses to it by Member States, the international community and the private sector, including the exchange of information on national legislation, best practices, technical assistance and international cooperation, with a view to examining options to strengthen existing and to propose new national and international legal or other responses to cybercrime. 

In its resolution 67/189, the General Assembly noted with appreciation the work of the open-ended intergovernmental expert group to conduct a comprehensive study of the problem of cybercrime and encouraged it to enhance its efforts to complete its work and to present the outcome of the study to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in due course. 

The first session of the expert group was held in Vienna from 17 to 21 January 2011. At that meeting, the expert group reviewed and adopted a collection of topics and a methodology for the study.

The collection of topics for consideration within a comprehensive study on cybercrime included the problem of cybercrime, legal responses to cybercrime, crime prevention and criminal justice capabilities and other responses to cybercrime, international organizations, and technical assistance. These main topics were further divided into 12 sub-topics.3 Within this Study, these topics are covered in eight Chapters: (1) Connectivity and cybercrime; (2) The global picture; (3) Legislation and frameworks; (4) Criminalization; (5) Law enforcement and investigations; (6) Electronic evidence and criminal justice; (7) International cooperation; and (8) Prevention.

The methodology for the study tasked the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime with developing the study, including developing a questionnaire for the purposes of information gathering, collecting and analyzing data, and developing a draft text of the study. Information gathering in accordance with the methodology, including the distribution of a questionnaire to Member States, intergovernmental organizations and representatives from the private sector and academic institutions, was conducted by UNODC, from February 2012 to July 2012. Information was received from 69 Member States with regional distribution as follows: Africa (11), Americas (13), Asia (19), Europe (24), and Oceania (2). Information was received from 40 private sector organizations, 16 academic organizations and 11 intergovernmental organizations. Over 500 opensource documents were also reviewed by the Secretariat. Further details on the methodology are contained at Annex Five to this Study.

As required by General Assembly resolution 65/230, this Study has been prepared with a view to 'examining options to strengthen existing and to propose new national and international legal or other responses to cybercrime.' The mandate comes within the context of a number of other mandates and activities related to cybercrime and cybersecurity within the United Nations system. In this respect, the focus of the Study is limited to the crime prevention and criminal justice aspects of preventing and combating cybercrime.

The Study represents a 'snapshot' in time of crime prevention and criminal justice efforts to prevent and combat cybercrime.

It paints a global picture, highlighting lessons learned from current and past efforts, and presenting possible options for future responses. While the Study is, by title, a study on 'cybercrime', it has unique relevance for all crimes. As the world moves into a hyper-connected society with universal internet access, it is hard to imagine a 'computer crime', and perhaps any crime, that will not involve electronic evidence linked with internet connectivity. Such developments may well require fundamental changes in law enforcement approach, evidence gathering, and mechanisms of international cooperation in criminal matters.